recs for gas water heater? need new

mahatmacat1September 17, 2013

We have an American Pro line Plus -- which just up and died yesterday -- I have read up a bit and it seems that our problem could be the thermocouple, as it was manufactured within the time frame of the left-threaded thermocouple that earned them a class-action lawsuit. We never got anything from them, btw.

SO. I'm wondering what is new since around 2004 in water heaters--we're a three person family and we have a 50-gallon, but I would like to have more hot water available one way or another. Are on-demand water heaters more evolved than they were back then? Any way that more-gallon water heaters have gotten more efficient?

Thanks very much for any information you can offer. We need one ASAP -- lucky that we live near a nice swim club at which we can shower for a mere $4 LOL!

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If you want more water, install a Rinnai tankless unit. It will run hot water until you get tired of it and turn it off, and they work great. It will cost a heck of a lot more than a thermocouple.

Probably a Rinnia R75 is all you need unless one of your showers is a car wash or you live in an area where the incoming water is super cold.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2013 at 10:40PM
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Converting form a tank style to a tankless water heater can be VERY expensive as most homes need to upgrade both the gas service and vent. Tankless wHers are very picky regarding the quality of water run through them. They do not tolerate hard water. Do your homework cause not everyone seems happy once they've gone to tankless and it will take a very long time to offset the cost..

As for tank style... all the newer conventional water heaters are FVIR (Flammable Vapor Ignition Resistant). There were problems with FVIR initially but they have been corrected.

I'm currently researching water heaters and I've settled on a 50 gallon Bradford White. Of the nation's three largest water heater makers, Bradford White is the only one that makes all of its products in the USA. Not sold at the box stores and more expensive than the el cheapos but the company will talk to consumers and they speak English.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2013 at 2:52PM
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I'm not a plumber but based on what I've heard from others and from my own experience, water heaters aren't made with the same quality today as they were 20 years ago. Sadly, like so many other things. Go with the recommendation of an expert and be happy if it lasts 10 years, While price can be an indication (a given product may be less well constructed if it's cheaper than others) I don't think any one brand is consistently better than others.

As for language, some of the dumbest people I've ever encountered spoke American English as their mother tongue, and some of the smartest people I've met spoke with a heavy accent. You're welcome to your own view.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2013 at 4:58PM
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I'm old enough to remember when all the readily available water heaters were of equal quality and less than $100.

Now days the readily available box store stuff including Sears are at the bottom pricing tier and bottom level of quality and provide less support after the sale than the top tier priced, higher quality, and better supported brands like A.O. Smith, Bradford White, and Rheem.

Regarding language, my view has been forged over years and years of not getting adequate support from offshore companies that US companies love to contract to support their products and services. I'm not criticizing the language rather that off shore agents and those speaking English as a second language seem to get less training and are less knowledgeable and less able to provide the support we seek after the sale then agents who are employees of the product manufacturer whether water heaters or electronics or anything else. Centurylink, my (huge regional) phone and broadband provider contracts their customer support offshore to a pacific rim country and that support is absolutely useless in resolving any problem I've had because the agents are trained to follow a script and not listen to the customer when troubleshooting a problem.

So you are welcome to your own view and I'll rely on my direct experience and choose a higher quality product with competent support backing that product up.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2013 at 6:58PM
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You're describing what I call the Walmart Effect - over the last 20 years, buyers have demanded that products/services be ever cheaper and cheaper, no matter what. We're now living with what we wanted - shoddy goods and crappy service but low prices. Even Walmart realizes it went too far and is starting to retrench with better quality and less rock-bottom price sourcing from the Third World.

As for call centers, I'll pass you along to the US-based service centers handling my cell phone, my internet connection, or my satellite TV. I ask where they're located and have heard answers like Minnesota, Texas, Phoenix, Sacramento. Many, not all, are under-educated, under-trained, and under-empowered. They can't offer tech support, but they're good at trying to upsell their latest special promotion. My experience is that I'm as likely to get the same nonsense from them as from a Pac Rim call center. On the other hand, the India-based tech support people that Norton Utilities have answering the phone are excellent.

Back to water heaters - quality is poor. If you put in a new one and it works and doesn't leak, you've done well and expect to replace it sooner than the older one it replaced. On a recent service call for something else, my plumber said that he'd stopped carrying several brands - including Bradford - because he was getting too many call backs to replace defective units.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2013 at 6:36PM
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You are partly right but miss an important aspect of the Walmart Effect... while many consumers demanded products/services be ever cheaper and cheaper no matter what, a portion of consumers were and are still willing to pay more for better quality. We used to be offered that option but as cheaper and cheaper was more widely adopted the companies making higher quality products were forced to either lower their quality in order to maintain sales or folded cause they wouldn't. Now we often don't have the option of a better quality product and are stuck buying lower quality products and having to endure the compromises that come with doing that.

Water heater Brands like A.O. Smith and Bradford White are only available through the plumbing supply channels and not through the mass market or discount channel. People I know who own a plumbing supply company tell me that they see plumbers recommending whichever brand realizes them the most profit, but using the story to their customers that they'd stopped carrying several brands - insert brand name here - because they were getting too many call backs to replace defective units. The plumbing supply owners don't care what the plumbers sell cause they carry both brands but they chuckle when the other brand has a better price now and the plumbers have to backstroke on what they told their homeowner customer regarding brand x being less reliable than brand y, but now brand x gets the plumber more profit so that's what the homeowner should get now. The problem with some plumbers is that when they lie to a customer they can't remember a month later which lie they told the customer when they ask the same question again.

Whether you believe it or not all water heaters are not the same quality. Cut a few different brands open, as I've done, and the difference is obvious even to a homeowner.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2013 at 7:42PM
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Yes, some customers do wish to pay for quality. I'm one of them. I won't waste anyone's time describing the frustrations I've encountered in the last few years trying to buy "better" quality products of different kinds. In some categories, they don't exist anymore.

I'm sure the story you've relating applies to many but not to my plumber.

He's stopped installing gas tank heaters for new customers and will only do the work for existing customers (using one brand only). He's also stopped installing tankless for the same reason and won't even install those for existing customers. He made it clear than even when water heaters were a bigger part of his business, he'd never install a customer-supplied (purchased) heater. His comment to that was "anyone who wants to buy at (name of store) deserves to do so and also deserves the consequences."

    Bookmark   September 23, 2013 at 10:39PM
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"Yes, some customers do wish to pay for quality. I'm one of them. I won't waste anyone's time describing the frustrations I've encountered in the last few years trying to buy "better" quality products of different kinds. In some categories, they don't exist anymore". Not just true but SO TRUE!

About the only things I've found that are still the same quality as they were when they made their name are Bunn coffee makers, Kitchen Aid stand mixers, and Snap-On tools.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2013 at 11:29PM
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